Cocaine has become the most popular stimulant drug in the Helsinki metropolitan area, according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), which monitors drug residues in wastewater.
THL announced in early September that samples taken at the Viikinmäki wastewater treatment plant in May had shown that measured levels of cocaine had surpassed amphetamines for the first time. Since then, cocaine has become even more commonly found.
Figures recorded in May saw 169.9 mg of cocaine per one thousand residents a day — while in August, the proportion reached 270.4 mg.
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A cocaine dealer spoke with Yle on condition of anonymity, but their claims were corroborated by police.
The dealer said that his clients are mostly between 20 and 40 years old with at least middle-income earnings, and around 80 percent are men.
"Junkies cannot afford coke. The rich mostly seek it out," the dealer told Yle.
Kimmo Sainio, Senior Detective Superintendent at the Helsinki police, agreed with the dealer.
"Drug users seen on the street usually have a long history of mixed use of amphetamines, drugs and alcohol. They are rarely found with cocaine," Sainio explained.
Sainio noted that cocaine is more of an elitist drug in price, but people seem increasingly able to afford it in the capital region.
The connotations associated with the substance often adds to its appeal, a characteristic of the drug that is recognised by the police as well as the dealers interviewed by Yle — while amphetamine is associated with junkies, cocaine is often seen as a drug of success.
Imported directly to Finland
Until recent years, most of the cocaine transported to Finland from South America was mainly via container ships from Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Now local police are investigating suspected drug offences in which cocaine was imported directly to Finland from South America.
"As the Finnish cocaine market has grown, direct imports have become profitable," said Sainio.
According to Sainio, international organisations send their own people to receive, store and distribute cocaine in Finland. Once the work is done, they disappear from the country. This makes it difficult to investigate such crimes.
Since there are fewer intermediate stages in logistics, the substance enters the country in a more pure form than before. Close to the point of importation, cocaine can be almost 100 percent pure, Sainio said.
Edit Note: The word 'stimulant' added to headline on 26.9 at 13:55 to more accurately reflect the result of the THL study.